11 Most Unusual Buildings in Africa

5. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Saint Paul Cathedral in Abidjan

Saint Paul Cathedral in Abidjan – Image credit to Zenman – CC BY-SA 3.0

This Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Aldo Spirito, and features an unusual modern sculpture out front which soars dramatically in front of the building itself. The stained glass windows are also noteworthy, featuring lovely images reflecting the natural beauty and culture of the locale.

4. Centre International des Civilisations Bantu (CICIBA), Libreville, Gabon


CICIBA – Image credit to Maxim Novikovski –

This cultural organization dates back to 1983, and studies the Bantu peoples. Its centre was quite an unusual and intriguing structure, which sadly fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1988 because there was not enough funding to maintain it. A few years ago, plans were announced to work on reviving it.

3. Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro – Image credit to Felix Krohn – CC BY-SA 2.0

This massive church makes this list because of its colossal size. The architecture itself is not particularly unusual, but the sheer scale of it boggles the mind. People seen walking its courtyard appear unnaturally tiny. In fact, the basilica is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest church in the world, displacing the record previously held by St. Peter’s Basilica. The total area is 30,000 square metres, while the total height is 158 metres.

Despite this fact, it can only hold 18,000 worshippers—contrast that with the 60,000 capacity of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is because the area of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace also incorporates a villa and rectory.

Ironically, the Christian population of Côte d’Ivoire is not that large, so only a few hundred worshippers regularly attend the services. That’s a lot of empty space—so this is a great place for tourists to stop in and not get overwhelmed by crowds.

2. Great Mosque of Djenné, Djenné, Mopti, Mali

Djenne great mud mosque

Djenne great mud mosque – Image credit to Ruud Zwart – CC BY-SA 3.0

One more fascinating structures in Africa with an unusual design is the Great Mosque of Djenné. Located on the flood plain of the Bani River, the mosque features adobe construction in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. While there was previously a mosque on the site constructed back in the 13th century, this one traces its origin to 1907.

The structure is actually made out of a large number of earthen bricks, but it is coated with plaster, which is why the walls look smooth. The sticks decorating the building are bundles of rodier palm, and are referred to as “toron.” They serve a functional purpose as well, functioning as scaffolding for the yearly repairs that are required for the mosque’s upkeep. This annual maintenance is actually a festival, complete with food and entertainment.

1. BCEAO Tower, Bamako, Mali


BCEAO Tower – Image credit to jst – CC BY-SA 1.0

One more beautiful and imposing building in Mali is the famous BCEAO Tower. At 20 stories, it is the tallest structure in the country and sits on the Niger River. While the Great Mosque of Djenné was an example of traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture, the BCEAO Tower is a stunning example of neo-Sudanic architecture, incorporating traditional elements with a modern flair. It serves as the Malian headquarters for the Central Bank of West African States.

Now you are familiar with some of the most unusual buildings throughout Africa, and you have also learned some more about the different styles of architecture you can see if you get a chance to visit. Be sure to check out the other articles on our site to discover even more beautiful structures!

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